WARRENSBURG — It wasn’t thrilling nor flashy, but Warrensburg got the job done on Friday, Nov. 1, dispatching Ruskin 46-7 in the opening round of the Class 4 District 7 playoffs.
“We took care of business,” Warrensburg coach Chris Cavanah said. “It was sloppy early, but I felt like our guys overcame some obstacles tonight, overcame a little push back from Ruskin in the first half, but ultimately we executed and got the job done.”
Warrensburg appeared set to put away Ruskin, scoring on the third play of the game with a 21-yard run by Shelby Pittsenbarger at the 11 minutes, 20 seconds mark of the first quarter. The Golden Eagles attempted an onside kick to start the game, which set up the Tigers in prime position.
Warrensburg’s next three drives ended by way of a Corbin Cowick fumble, an Eli Nappe interception and a failed fourth and ten attempt, all of which came inside Ruskin territory.
Turnovers and penalties hindered the Tigers offense in the opening 12 minutes of action, which was played predominantly on the Golden Eagles side of the field, keeping Warrensburg to just a 7-0 lead by the end of the first frame.
“We had a lot of penalties early on in the game that stalled a couple drives,” Cavanah said. “I thought we should have had two, if not three more scores in the first half. That is something, truthfully, that we’ve been dealing with all year and we’ve got to be better at that stuff moving into next week.”
Warrensburg junior corner back Jaden Blew erased a muffed punt by Pittsenbarger early in the second quarter, recovered by Ruskin at midfield, with an interception returned to the Golden Eagles 31-yard line.
Blew’s interception led to a 15-yard Cory Conley touchdown run to up Warrensburg’s lead to 14-0.
Conley, who finished as the second-leading rusher for the Tigers with 90 yards on six carries, has been featured more heavily in the offense in the absence of Miles Moore.
“This year, it being my senior year, I have a lot more confidence than I’ve had in the last few years,” Conley said. “I’ve got big shoes to fill.”
A special teams snafu by Ruskin set up the Tigers in plus-territory once again. The Golden Eagles made no attempt to corral the ensuing kickoff and Cowick pounced on it at the Ruskin 21-yard line.
Nappe finished the extra possession with a one-yard dive over a pile of blockers to give Warrensburg some breathing room at 20-0 after a missed point after attempt, with 7:39 remaining in the half.
Pittsenbarger capped off the first half with the longest play of the night, scampering 68 yards up the far sideline to send Warrensburg into the break up 27-0. The junior running back finished with 128 yards on 10 carries.
The Warrensburg defense started the second half with its fourth take away of the night as senior lineman Dominick Belardo jumped on a bobbled snap by the Golden Eagles.
Conley parlayed the fumble recovery into points with a 34-yard run to extend the Tigers lead to 33-0.
Another Ruskin fumble, recovered by sophomore Luke Othic, led to more points for Warrensburg.
Cowick ran over a Golden Eagle defender to break off a 19-yard touchdown run to make it a 39-0 blowout with 4:26 left in the third quarter.
Warrensburg added its final score of the night on a three-yard scamper by Nappe at the midway point of the fourth quarter to stake out a 46-0 lead.
Ruskin scored its lone points of the night with 27 seconds left on the Warrensburg junior varsity defense to avoid the shutout.
“We wanted to get through the game healthy and with the win,” Cavanah said. “We did that and we’ve got the match up we wanted next week with Harrisonville.”
The district semifinals will feature a rematch of Missouri River Valley Conference West rivals after Harrisonville toppled Van Horn 58-14.
The Wildcats knocked off the Tigers 14-13 on Oct. 4 with a last-second touchdown and two-point conversion.
“That left a sour taste in our mouths in week six,” Cavanah said. “We felt like we definitely should have won and it got away from us there at the end, so we’ve had that game circled since week six. That is the match-up we wanted and we are ready to go.”
Warrensburg will host Harrisonville in the district semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8.
“We’ve been waiting to play them since week six when they came here,” Conley said. “We’ve been looking forward to them.”